Teen Drinking Never Safe
By Anne-Rachelle McHugh
Thinking about hosting a “safe” teen party where booze will be served? Think again.
Adults who condone teen drinking or turn a blind eye to it risk being judged by society and by a legal system that comes down hard on adults who facilitate underage drinking.
In Vancouver, a woman was recently charged with failing to provide the necessities of life after a 16-year-year girl was found dead at an underage drinking party the woman was “chaperoning.” In Manitoba, a couple faces similar charges after a 15-year-old girl drinking at their home wandered outside and froze to death.
These incidents highlight concerns many parents have about teen drinking and their role in educating kids about its responsible use.
Proponents of supervised drinking say it teaches teens how to drink responsibly in a safe environment. Critics say it provides parents with a false sense of security and does nothing to protect teens from the hazards associated with underage drinking including alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, sexual assaults, and unplanned pregnancies.
Psychologist Michael J. Bradley says adults who don’t repeatedly tell kids that drinking is dangerous are adults who silently tell them that drinking is okay.
“Contradictory to the myth, kids do listen when adults speak with respect,” Bradley writes in his blog.
Bradley, author of “Yes Your Teen is Crazy,” says the teen brain is prone to the addictive effects of substances like alcohol. He says alcohol is associated with everything bad that happens to teens including car crashes, failing grades, sexual assaults, arrest, unintended pregnancy, STDs and suicide.
“Do not provide booze to teens on prom night or any other time,” he writes. ”If I insult you with that suggestion; congratulations. You are not among the 33 per cent of parents who voluntarily provide alcohol to adolescents, nor among the 24 per cent who drink with their teens.”
Venture Academy for troubled teens’ Gordon Hay understands Bradley’s stance on teen drinking.
Hay says it’s important parents remember that teenagers “are children in adult bodies” and that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug that affects their mind and body in unpredictable ways.
“Your son or daughter may look grown up but the reality is their brain is not fully developed and they are incapable of making critical decisions that you as the parent must. What that means in a nutshell is it’s your job as a parent to reign in your child, set limits, and be their parent, not their friend.”
Hay is founder of Venture Academy for Troubled Teens, a residential assessment and treatment program for teens that includes drug and alcohol treatment in its treatment programs. Venture Academy is a boot camp alternative with programs in BC and Ontario.
• People who start drinking at a young age are more likely to develop alcoholism within 10 years of when they first started to drink. A study conducted by the National Health Institute found 47% of people who began drinking before the age of 14 developed a dependence on alcohol compared to the 9% of people who began drinking at age 21 or older.
• A national survey of students in grades 7–9 found that about two-thirds had already consumed alcohol. Another survey of Canadian youth aged 15–24 showed that 83% were current or past-year drinkers.
• Nationally, more than one-third of students in grade 7-9 have binged on alcohol. That number increases to 40% for 15-19 year-olds. (Substance Abuse in Canada: Youth in Focus report)
• Alcohol-related trauma is the number one preventable cause of death among young Canadians. A survey conducted by Smartrisk found almost 45% of all youth deaths involved motor vehicle crashes and of those nearly 40 % were alcohol-related. (2005 Smartrisk Survey)
• An Ontario study found about one in seven licensed students drink and drive. Almost 30% of those surveyed reported having driven with a drinking driver. (2005 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey)
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